Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa syn. Cimicifuga racemosa) root /rhizome
The American Herbal Products Association is providing here analytical tools and methods to identify adulteration of raw materials and dietary ingredients labeled as black cohosh (Actaea racemosa syn. Cimicifuga racemosa) root/rhizome, or extracts thereof. This information is provided for industry in order to deal appropriately with reports of adulteration of this ingredient and make wise purchasing decisions.
The economic adulteration of black cohosh root and rhizome with other species is well established. AHPA’s guidance policy on Known Adulterants identifies Chinese cimicifuga root/rhizome, also known as sheng ma or Rhizoma Cimicifugae as known black cohosh adulterants. This material commonly consists of Actaea cimicifuga, syn. Cimicifuga foetida; Actaea dahurica, syn. C. dahurica; A. heracleifolia, syn. C. heracleifolia; and possibly other Asian species of Actaea. The citation below provides a review of Rhizoma Cimicifugae for those wanting additional information.
Li JX, Yu ZY. Cimicifugae rhizoma: from origins, bioactive constituents to clinical outcomes. Curr Med Chem. 2006;13(24):2927-51.
The black cohosh monograph in the Natural Health Ingredients Database of the Canadian Natural Health Products Directorate at Health Canada, available online here or as a pdf file here, references instances where adverse events associated with ingestion of products labeled as containing black cohosh (Actaea racemosa syn. Cimicifuga racemosa) were found to contain plant species that were not black cohosh upon laboratory analysis. The Canadian Adverse Reaction Newsletter (2010 Jan;20(1):1-2) provided specifics on this situation as covered in a January 14, 2010 AHPA Update.
There are several analytical tools available for the authentication of genuine black cohosh and its differentiation from other species. Two papers detailing the use of high performance thin-layer chromatography (HPTLC) are cited below. The first focuses on detection of black cohosh adulteration by other North American Actaea species while the second deals more specifically with differentiation of black cohosh from Chinese cimicifuga. The full methodology for the HPTLC analysis of the second citation can be accessed via this: Identification of black cohosh by HPTLC.
The third citation below employed phytochemical “fingerprinting” using high-performance liquid chromatography with a photo-diode array detector (HPLC-PDA) and liquid chromatography with mass spectrometry detection (LC-MS) to authenticate black cohosh and differentiate it from 14 other Actaea species.
Verbitski SM, Gourdin GT, Ikenouye LM, McChesney JD, Hildreth J. Detection of Actaea racemosa adulteration by thin-layer chromatography and combined thin-layer chromatography-bioluminescence. J AOAC Int. 2008 Mar-Apr;91(2):268-75.
Ankli A, Reich E, Steiner M. Rapid high-performance thin-layer chromatographic method for detection of 5% adulteration of black cohosh with Cimicifuga foetida, C. heracleifolia, C. dahurica, or C. americana. J AOAC Int. 2008 Nov-Dec;91(6):1257-64.
Jiang B, Ma C, Motley T, Kronenberg F, Kennelly EJ. Phytochemical fingerprinting to thwart black cohosh adulteration: a 15 Actaea species analysis. Phytochem Anal. 2011 Feb 19. doi: 10.1002/pca.1285. [Epub ahead of print] Supporting information is available here.
The black cohosh monograph in the Natural Health Ingredients Database of the Canadian Natural Health Products Directorate at Health Canada, available online here http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=44&lang=eng or as a pdf file here http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/dbImages/559, references instances where adverse events associated with ingestion of products labeled as containing black cohosh (Actaea racemosa syn. Cimicifuga racemosa) were found to contain plant species that were not black cohosh upon laboratory analysis. The Canadian Adverse Reaction Newsletter (2010 Jan;20(1):1-2) provided specifics on this situation as covered in a January 14, 2010 AHPA Update.
The American Herbal Pharmacopoeia and the USP Dietary Supplements Compendium also contain useful information for the differentiation of black cohosh and other species representing common black cohosh adulterants. Authenticated black cohosh reference materials are available from both organizations as well as AHPA member companies Alkemists Laboratories, Botanical Liaisons, and Chromadex. DNA testing can be used to verify authentic species, and rule out the presence of common or other unexpected DNA-containing adulterants or contaminants. Work in this area is currently being conducted by AHPA member AuthenTechnologies.